Terminology and translation

Lynne Bowker
Table of contents

Terminology is the discipline concerned with the collection, processing, description and presentation of terms, which are lexical items belonging to a specialized subject field (e.g. medicine, law, engineering, library science or art history). As part of any translation project, translators must identify appropriate equivalents for the specialized terms that they encounter in a source text. In some cases, they must also take into account the particular terms preferred by their clients. Researching the specific terminology needed to complete any given translation can be a time-consuming and labour-intensive task, and it has long been recognized that it does not make sense to repeat this research when a new text needs to be translated. Glossaries and specialized dictionaries have been in existence for hundreds of years, and individual translators used to keep boxes of paper slips or index cards detailing the results of their research efforts until electronic repositories of terminological research: in the form of term banks, became one of the earliest applications of computers. In today’s era of information overload and intense time-to-market pressures, translators recognize more than ever the importance of keeping track of pertinent terminological information in order to avoid repeating time-consuming research. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Allard (2012, 122), which sought to establish a snapshot of how term bases are used by translators, this was the most frequently cited reason for recording information in a term base (48%).

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Term bases

InterActive Terminology for Europe (IATE) - The European Union’s multilingual term base:
Le Grand dictionnaire terminologique (GDT) de l’Office québécois de la langue française:
TERMIUM Plus - The Government of Canada’s terminology and linguistic data bank:
TermWiki - The Global Social Learning Network:
UNTERM - The United Nations Multilingual Terminology Database:

Terminology management tools

AnyLexic - Terminology Management Software:

Bitext Tools and Resources